One Room, One Shot, One Circle

Our interview with Ani Qananyan, winner of the $2,000 Self-Quarantine Challenge

July 9, 2020  |  by Creative Armenia

Ani Qananyan has been restoring mural paintings and working with clay her entire life. For the Self-Quarantine Challenge, she picked up a new media — film — and hit the bullseye. Her relatable depiction of the quarantine made her a co-winner of the creative challenge. We reached out to Ani and asked her about the video art, the visual arts, and the world after COVID-19. 

CA: Give us more insight into your video art. How did you conceive the idea?

AQ: It was during the days of the strict lockdown. My husband saw a reposted open call of Creative Armenia’s Self-Quarantine Challenge on his newsfeed, and sent me, with a “Hey, wanna try yourself in something different?” message. 

I was cleaning up one of the rooms in my studio, so we had an empty space to create “artists" daily routine.” Staying in a closed space for such a long period wasn’t productive. It felt like living inside Groundhog Day.  The other side of “oh, I have lots of time to do this and that” was in fact having a small variety of activities allowed. Therefore, a one-room, one-shot, and an all-in-one circle were the formats I was going for with the video art. It all led to the idea of repeating monotonous activities in a circle.

CA: What were the challenges and the benefits of creating the work from your quarantine? 

AQ: Well, the biggest challenge was technical. I’d never done a video before but had an image of the perfect shot I wanted to recreate. 

In the very beginning, the idea was to put a camera on the ground in a moving circle and let it capture each activity and move on. We had no rails, so we tried attaching the hand-held camera to a toy car but the floor wasn’t perfectly flat, and after several attempts, I just told myself, “OK, I’m not doing this.” 

The next day we tried filming it from the surveillance camera angle and added recurring factory sounds in the post-production. In the shot, you can also see a chalk circle, which initially was drawn to mark the camera movement but ended up symbolizing the social distancing. However, it was convenient to have a spare studio room for arranging a clean-looking circle in a closed space.

CA: You are a clay artist, painter, and a mural painting restorer. Does being an artist that masters across the fields help you in any creative process?

AQ: In my main activities, of course, it is helpful. But video art is a completely different medium with its rules and conditions. 

I hope photographers and filmmakers will not kill me, but I believe film is an evolution of photography, and photography is the manipulation of light. So if you need a good picture, you need good light. 

I can draw with one candle or even without. I can work with clay in total darkness. But to create a video you have to have at least one light source to reflect objects on your digital or analog carrier. Of course, it’s not an issue when you are creating a video outdoors or even indoors with just one light bulb. But when thinking about lighting for films as with paintings, you have to deal with physics. That was new to me. 

CA: Did your personal quarantine and the Self-Quarantine Challenge influence your methods, techniques, and tools of creation?

AQ: To tell the truth, not much. Creating a video art piece for the challenge was an experiment, which surely will not be the last one, but most likely I’ll keep on doing what I’m used to.

After finishing this interview, I’ll start another clay square. The influence of the quarantine and the Self-Quarantine Challenge might be my consideration of using video as a tool to share my work process. Since I’m just a beginner, steps might be slow. Although I am first of all a clay artist, co-winning the competition and seeing my work among the other winners will make me more confident in my future endeavors. 

CA: What are your creative resolutions for the post-COVID world? 

AQ: The post-COVID world obviously will become more digital. So those artists, who used to work with materials, need to find ways of showing digital products. Maybe it’s the right time to think about incorporating AR or VR. But the idea of creating an exhibition and promoting it in VR seems unattainable to me at this very moment. So, I still hope that the post-COVID world will roll back to the good old times we lived in. 

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